THE transfer of nutrients from a mother to her baby in the womb is under study at Manchester University. Colin Sibley and his colleagues in the department of child health are investigating the single layer of cells between maternal and foetal blood in the placenta. Until now scientists have been stumped by how the transfer of nutrients occurs.
But collaboration with an obstetrician in the United States has revealed areas of "denudation" in the cell layer. This, says Professor Sibley, was previously thought to be evidence of cell damage. But the Manchester team is suggesting the denudation could be evidence of programmed cell death, to provide the necessary gaps through which the "life generating" nutrients can pass.
The team is now investigating whether a relationship exists between the number of denuded areas and the quantity of nutrients passing from mother to child.